Monthly Archives: July 2006

Feeding the Homeless

Caroly Van Duyn, Homeless Woman

What Athena says.

First Draft

There is some kind of twisted expectation we have now, that everybody who needs help deserves their fate in some way. That misfortune is beneficial, even, character-building. There are people who’ll talk about the lessons of poverty, the proud “I didn’t need a handout, and I’m just fine,” the kinds of things you never hear from anybody until after they’re not poor anymore. It’s easy to make something a pretty story when you’ve got some distance, money in the bank, a canapé in your hand.

I think it’s a defense mechanism, the thought that the homeless, the hopeless, the poor, are that way because they want to be. Because if it’s not about making choices, well, then it could happen to people who do everything right, who have jobs and insurance and a home and a car and are doing just fine. If it’s about people “wanting” to be homeless (which, can I just say, has never been the dream of any child growing up that I’ve ever known) then we don’t have to be scared, because we don’t want to be homeless, and the universe isn’t that random, and it’s going to be fine. A cascade of circumstances — mental illness, economic downturn, addiction, divorce, sickness, death — that leads to you being on the street talking to yourself and scruffing up the park for the suburbanites couldn’t ever, ever happen to you. Blaming the victim is a time-honored way of making ourselves feel safer.

And what zenyenta says.

Another city addresses its problem with homelessness. In Orlando, you now need a special permit to serve meals to large groups of people in public places. And charitable organizations that feed the homeless won’t be among those to whom the permits are issued. This has the makings of a trend and it seems to be catching on fast.

You know what’s funny? Not funny in a ha-ha way. More like funny in a grotesque way. Conservatives argued against welfare and all the things that might help to keep these people housed for like thirty years. They argued that it was fine to help people in need and sure, everyone should lend a hand to those less fortunate, but we shouldn’t be forced. It should be voluntary, unlike funds to, oh, wage elective wars, for instance. But, so say the small government conservatives, feeding the hungry should be the job of private charities, not the government. As it turns out, what they meant to say was that charities could feed the hungry and homeless, but only if they could do it somewhere that they don’t…you know…show.

I think this is a huge problem with America today. We are so separated from each other as a society, with our gated communities and squeaky clean suburbs. People don’t see the homeless as one step removed from themselves. I have a mentally disabled sister and nephew. The nephew lived with my mother until she passed away two years ago, and has had a huge adjustment to living on his own. He’s been kicked out of several apartments now, and last I heard from him, was staying with a friend. He is one step away from homelessness and has spent a couple nights on the streets.

But everyone wants to think these things can’t happen to them. They think the homeless shoulld just get a job, or something. My nephew can’t hold a job, he lives on a limited income from his trust and social security.

It doesn’t take much to end up homeless. Lose a job, get sick, become mentally disabled, lack insurance, and there you are. A lot more kids than you think are growing up homeless in this country, through no fault of their own. The attitude that we are not responsible for these people, that we don’t need to help them, is bad enough. But to tell others they can’t help them, can’t provide them food?

That’s just heartless and cruel.

Sure, it’s nice to have parks to enjoy without the homeless there to distract you from your pleasure. But it’s nicer to live in a society where you can have your kids see someone feeding those homeless people and say, “See, honey? It’s good to care for other people.”

Unless you really want your kids to be as selfish as you are.

An intelligent view from an Israeli

Let’s declare victory and start talking – Haaretz – Israel News

When there is fighting, guerrilla organizations want the entire population to be harmed. When everyone is a victim, the hatred will be directed at the enemy more forcefully. That is why bombing residential neighborhoods, power plants, bridges and highways is an act of folly, which plays into Hezbollah’s hands and serves its strategic goals: An attack on the overall fabric of life creates a common fate for the fighters and those standing on the sidelines. At the same time, the greater the population’s suffering, the greater its alienation from the formal ruling institutions – the government, the parliament and the various security forces that are powerless to save them.

It is an illusion to hope that the 700,000 Lebanese refugees will direct their fury at their government, or that the population that still remains in place will evict the Hezbollah members from among it. As far as the population is concerned, responsibility for its catastrophe lies entirely with Israel, and failure to cooperate with whoever fights against Israel would be considered national treason. It was foolish to assume that the Lebanese political elite would dare to confront Hezbollah and use force against it. And anyway, who was even capable of using force? The Lebanese Army, whose bases were bombed as well?

Not making friends here

This is what “precision guided missles” get you.

Somehow, I really don’t think the Israelis are making any new friends in their neighborhood. They need to learn to play well with others.

But then, our administration needs to go back to kindergarten too.

It's about time someone said this!

Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Happiness is always a delusion

“Anybody in this culture who watches the news and can be happy – there’s something wrong with them.”

“The cultural demand now is be happy, or enjoy yourself, or succeed. You have to sacrifice your unhappiness and your critique of the values you’re supposed to be taking on. You’re supposed to go: ‘Happiness! Yes, that’s all I want!’ But what about justice or reality or ruthlessness – or whatever my preferred thing is?”

“It’s very simple. The reason that there are so many depressed people is that life is so depressing for many people. It’s not a mystery. There is a presumption that there is a weakness in the people who are depressed or a weakness on the part of scientific research and one of these two groups has got to pull its socks up. Scientists have got to get better and find us a drug and the depressed have got to stop malingering. The ethos is: ‘Actually life is wonderful, great – get out there!’ That’s totally unrealistic and it’s bound to fail.”

“Your psycho- analyst is one of the last people to whom you’re allowed to show that you’re unhappy. If in the public world you’re supposed to be very smiley and having lots of sex and being very successful, at least with your analyst you can articulate your miseries, woes, doubts. It becomes a place where you can admit to and elaborate your doubts and vulnerabilities, which is rare in culture that encourages invulnerability.”

Wilted, but alive

I started journaling again today after a break of several months. I’ve felt mostly uninspired the last few months, and done no art at all. I’ve also felt truly lousy the last couple of days, and came home early from Japanese class last night, completely wiped out. Lately it’s just been day after day of hot, oppressively humid weather. Today it’s only 90, but still quite humid. The plants outside are wiliting in the heat, even the tropicals. My last line in the journal entry today was a comparison to the plants and their strength even in this weather, “I feel wilted, but alive.”

Perhaps in the heat of this summer, beginning to feel the effects of global warming and with just a hint of what future years may hold for us, this is the best we can hope for, to be wilted but alive. Maybe we can begin to make the changes we need to make, moving to more sustainable ways of living and alternative energy to lessen our impact on the world. The war over oil and the lands of the Middle East is the last war, and we are caught up in fighting it instead of planning for the future, a future that must be built on alternatives. We need smaller cars and houses, smarter ways of living that don’t require hour long commutes, better public transportation so we aren’t all out driving our own vehicles, and less need for that transpotation with houses built near stores and urban centers, instead of bedroom communities that require so much driving.

We are wilted, but alive, and we have to focus on our roots. The branches and leaves are pretty, but not necessary. We have to get back to what sustains us, and what is sustainable.

Seeking Solace

Solace, Pino Daeni

Seeking Solace

There is no comfort tonight
No friend willing to spend the long night
Talking things over,
Seeing what can be made right
And what is gone forever.

“I thought we were beyond that”, he says –
And yet a part of me
Will never be beyond that,
Entrapped in a time when Love
Justified so many hurts.

Tonight the memories linger
And I long for someone
Who understands it all
Knowing the depths of those feelings
And how it all unraveled.

I know he’ll never get it
How deep this river runs,
How far it flows from the quiet springs
To the roaring rapids,
And finally to the sea’s edge.

Until at last we join that ocean again –
And what is the difference then
between one drop of water and another?
And yet they all insisted
That only two drops could ever join together…

Why I read Juan Cole

Please go read the entire post:

Informed Comment

I am a Middle East expert. I lived in the area for nearly 10 years, speak several of its languages, and have given my life to understanding its history and culture. Since September 11, 2001, my country has been profoundly involved with the region, both negatively and positively. Powerful economic and political forces in American society would like to monopolize the discourse on these matters for the sake of their own interests, which may not be the same as the interests of those of us in the general public. Obviously, such forces will attempt to smear and marginalize those with whom they disagree. Before the Internet, they might have had an easier time of it. Being in the middle of all this, trying to help mutual understanding, is what I trained for. Should I have been silent, published only years later in stolid academic prose in journals locked up in a handful of research libraries? And this for the sake of a “career”? The role of the public intellectual is my career. And it is a hell of a career. I recommend it.

Juan R.I. Cole is a professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. His blog can be found at

Bravo, Mr. Cole. And thank you for all the writing you do, and giving me and so many others a better understanding of the issues in the Middle East. In an age where we are all so misled by our government’s administration, our media, and the corporate interests, those willing to speak out as you do are such a breath of fresh air. All I can do is point others towards those like you who are willing to tell the truth and support you and others who are willing to do so. I seriously hope that somewhow, that makes a difference.